Cowhorn

  • Sun: Full sun
  • Harvest Size: 6 to 8 inches long
  • Days to Harvest: 75 to 85
  • Plant size: 24 to 36 inches tall, 18 inches wide
  • Scoville units:: 2,500 to 5,000 (medium)

Satisfy cravings for some medium-hot peppers with the uniquely shaped cowhorn. When fully ripe, the ends of fruits curl, resembling a steer’s horn. These peppers grow to a whopping 8 to 10 inches—the biggest cayenne-style pepper you can grow. Fruits ripen from green to red and are thick-walled, offering a good crunch when chopped fresh into salsa or salads. Plants are strong producers, flowering and forming peppers all summer long, thriving in heat and humidity. This is a good producer in our test garden where a very long growing season and ideal conditions yield about 10 pounds of peppers per plant.

Plant in spring to early summer starting anytime about two weeks after the last spring frost. If you like to plant a little early to start harvesting earlier, be prepared to protect plants from possible frost and keep them a little warmer with a row cover.

Plant spacing: 18-24 inches apart in rows 30 inches apart; 12 to 18 inches in intensive gardens. One plant per 18-inch container. Plants per person: 2 for fresh use; 4 to 6 for freezing or canning.

Secrets to Success »

Water regularly. Moisture is vital for the fruit to grow. To help keep the soil moist, mix compost into soil, and mulch soil around plants. Fertilize when planting and during the growing season with Bonnie Herb & Vegetable Plant Food.

Pepper branches are brittle. Stake plants as fruits start to form, tying pepper-laden branches to stakes, or use small tomato cages for support.

Harvest and Use »

Snip stems of individual peppers using a sharp knife or clippers, leaving a small portion of stem attached. Rinse and dry peppers; store in the refrigerator. The more peppers you pick, the more you’ll get. Pick at any stage—from green to red—until you determine the stage and heat your family enjoys. Beat the heat by harvesting peppers when they’re immature: green and shorter. For best results drying peppers, allow fruits to mature fully, turning bright red.

Handle hot peppers with care; it’s best to wear disposable rubber or plastic gloves when harvesting or handling fruit. To avoid burning sensations, don’t touch your eyes, mouth, or nasal areas while working with hot peppers. Wash your hands before using the bathroom, even if you’ve been wearing gloves.

Capsaicin, the compound that produces the heat in a hot pepper, is concentrated in the veins, ribs, and seeds. Personal sensitivity to it varies so use caution until you know how you’ll react. If pepper juice gets in your eye or nose, flush immediately with cold water. When the fire is in your mouth, grab ice cream, milk, or yogurt to counteract the burn. Wash towels that may have capsaicin on them to avoid spreading it.

Peppers are packed with Vitamins A and C—twice the vitamin C of an orange. Use cowhorn peppers to season chili sauce or create spicy hot pepper vinegar. Chop fresh peppers into salsa or Southwest-style dishes. Dry peppers and grind into a powder to use for seasoning soups and stews.

Try These Garden Companions »

  • Habanero or Serrano pepper, Anaheim pepper, Poblano/Ancho pepper, onions, and tomatoes to blend a signature hot pepper sauce.
  • Cilantro, tomatoes, and onions—all the ingredients you need for creating hot and spicy salsa.
  • Different types of peppers to taste the flavors and types available: sweet, hot, mildly hot, pickling, and stuffing types.
  • Sweet onion, Thai basil, squash, and cherry tomatoes for stir-fry .
  • Low growing flowers such as petunias and marigolds—colorful-fruited peppers look great tucked into flower beds.

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